Advocating speech

University of Chicago provides from invigorating news in the form of a notice sent to incoming students:

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

Fostering the free exchange of ideas reinforces a related University priority—building a campus that welcomes people of all backgrounds. Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community. The members of our community must have the freedom to espouse and explore a wide range of ideas.

“A trigger warning,” TIME explains, “is advance notice about subject material that may be difficult for certain students to read, hear or see; a safe space is a place they can go to avoid those subjects or heal after confronting them.”

FIRE lauds University of Chicago:

That UC has taken this bold and important step is no surprise to FIRE: UC is a leader among colleges and universities in its approach to freedom of speech. Last year, faculty members spearheaded the hugely influential Chicago Statement, which FIRE has endorsed and promoted as a gold standard for universities articulating a commitment to free expression on campus.

I shared an anecdote from Ohio State’s handling of political protestors on campus a few months ago, writing: “I fear that what safe space/trigger warning advocates either don’t realize or don’t care about is that the sort of society they’re intent on creating would be one that’s hostile toward First Amendment free speech. There’s this rooted hostility, in other words, toward one of the basic premises for our way of life. It’s tough to imagine calls for less free speech (let alone free range intellectual discourse) will stay confined to our campuses.”

If enough University of Chicagos speak so clearly for free speech, bad ideas like trigger warnings and safe spaces will suffer the quick death they deserve.

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